George Best


Best was the first real superstar of football. He was a “modern player, acutely conscious of his earning capacity, on and off the field, highly susceptible to lucrative and tempting offers and increasingly committed to a style of life and behaviour which was in many crucial respects new.”[1] Moreover, he was a “[sportsman] in the days before sport was fully a career.”[2] The idea of celebrity for athletes was blooming as Best played on the pitch. Never before did the tabloids follow the players, examining every aspect of their lives. And Best had plenty of flaws for the tabloids to exploit. He was “a full-fledged media personality, straddling the worlds of sport, showbiz, fashion and pop music.”[3]

George Best

Best’s popularity was widespread—he was “the first sporting ‘pop idol,’ as famous round the world as The Beatles.”[4] As such, Best (and other rising athletes around that time) “modeled their lives on people outside sport,” with Best identifying with the “pop star.”[5]Additionally, as one obituary read,

He was a good looker. His fans, many of them the young women who idolised pop music stars, were happy to pay money to watch him, whether or not they understood the offside rule.[6]

He drew in crowds of screaming fans, not because of his skill, necessarily, but because of his face and charm. While today, the concept of athletes being idolized for their looks is a familiar topic, in the 60s and 70s such an idea was unheard of. That a fan would go to a game and focus on the player and not the total match seemed like an absurd waste of time and money. Even though “he was an appalling role model,”[7] he remained one of the most memorable players of all time. “They don’t call him a hero; he had too many flaws for that. But they loved him, they were moved by his magic, they admired his physical and moral courage on a football pitch, they marvelled at his sorcery while running with a ball, they envied his natural charm. If they were opponents, they cursed his brilliant beauty. What you must always remember about George Best is that he was a champion footballer.”[8] Somehow, he won over the British Isles with his pop-star lifestyle in a way that would not be replicated.

George Best’s legacy was that he was the one of the first celebrity footballers. He paved the way for today’s players, people like Beckham or Henry. His dazzling skill on the field earned him a lifestyle which he abused, but which served as a dire warning to future footballers. As the game was becoming ever more popular due to the advent of TV, everyone knew George Best. Now Best’s name is practically synonymous with degeneracy and wasted talent.George Best was a superb athlete with a tragic flaw, one for whom a glamorous lifestyle eventually proved deadly. Below is a YouTube clip created by a fan, marking the amazing skill Best had on the field.

George Best Tribute


  • Football League First Division winners 1965 and 1967 (with Manchester United)
  • UEFA European Cup winners 1968 (with Manchester United)
  • European Footballer of the Year Award 1968
  • Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year Award 1968
  • Inaugurated into the English Football Hall of Fame 2002

Although he was capped 37 times for the Northern Irish team and scored 9 goals in those games, he never made a FIFA World Cup game appearance, failing each year from 1966 to 1978 to qualify.[9]

[1] Taylor, Matthew (2000). Football, History and Memory: The Heroes of Manchester United. Football Studies, vol 3 no. 2 p 24-41.

[2] Kuper, S. (2009, July 3). Sporting life: how imperfect sportsmen became a thing of the past. The Financial Times. Retrieved from ABI Inform Database.

[3] Taylor

[4] Holden, J. (2005, October 30).  Forget the women and the wine—he was simply the Best. The Sunday Express. Retrieved from

[5] Kuper

[6] Staff Writer. Obituary of George Best. The Economist, December 3, 2005. Retrieved from

[7] Holden

[8] Holden


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